New internal documents released Tuesday detail how three of Big Tech’s most prominent companies favored their own products as a means of stamping out competition. Their release comes as lawmakers push to approve stronger antitrust legislation by the end of the year.
The documents were obtained by the House Judiciary Committee as part of its lengthy investigation into anticompetitive behavior from Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook’s parent company Meta. The investigation wrapped up in 2020, but the newly published emails, memos, and reports provide new evidence backing the committee’s calls to advance tougher competition rules for the tech industry.
“It is time for Congress to act,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), chair of the antitrust subcommittee, said in a Tuesday statement.
Specifically, the documents show how Amazon and Google pressured independent sellers and smartphone manufacturers to favor their own products and platforms over those of their competitors. In a January 2014 email, one Google executive raised concerns over a potential new Samsung service that could compete with the company’s “core search experience.” In email chains dating as far back as 2009, Amazon executives are shown debating whether to restrict a competitor’s ability to advertise on their site. Amazon later acquired the competitor, Diapers.com, in a deal House investigators claim helped the e-commerce giant secure its market dominance.
In another email, Google executives discuss how Amazon’s involvement changed the market for personal voice assistants. “Amazon has changed the dynamics here,” the heavily redacted email reads. “Amazon has a built-in incentive to partner with Alexa since they will pull you from their store if you don’t support it.”
Also included is a long-discussed Facebook memo called “Possible End States for the Family of Apps.” First reported by The Information in 2019, the memo describes a “tipping point” at which users would begin using other Meta-owned apps, like Instagram and WhatsApp, more than its core Facebook platform. The 2018 memo was written for CEO Mark Zuckerberg explaining the ways in which the company could mitigate Instagram and WhatsApp’s growth so as to not overtake Facebook’s dominance.
“WhatsApp and Facebook are coexisting as Broadcast Sharing Apps,” the memo reads. “It remains unclear Whether Instagram and Facebook can coexist…It seems unlikely that three Sharing Apps can coexist.”
The Tuesday documents were released alongside the committee’s final report describing the findings of its investigation and legislative solutions to the competition concerns they discovered. Lawmakers argued that the lack of competition in the tech industry has resulted in worse online products over time. No Republicans co-signed the report’s recommendations, sending a signal that it may be more difficult for Democrats to push through antitrust reform this year.
“The harm from radical antitrust legislation would put the United States at a global disadvantage and leave Americans worse off,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for the tech industry group NetChoice, said in a Tuesday statement. “Its reach would extend far beyond just digital markets: to consumers of every business, in every industry, in every state.”
Still, antitrust advocates have continued to pressure lawmakers and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to support bills banning tech platforms from favoring their own products. Antitrust scholars and the Consumer Federation of America urged the Senate to pass the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act last week.
“From Amazon and Facebook to Google and Apple, there’s no question that these unregulated tech giants have become too big to care and too powerful to ever put people over profits,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said in a Tuesday statement.
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